Dr. Novia Chen is receiving her doctoral degree in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies (GSWS)! Before joining GSWS, Novia worked as a film/video production instructor, filmmaker, and festival coordinator.
“I was fortunate to have some of my works screened at international film festivals and women’s film festivals. However, after one screening of my documentary short, Now He is a She (2010), a film that explores the subjectivity, sexuality and familial relationships of a male-to-female transgender math teacher in Taiwan, there was a backlash from queer audiences that expressed disappointment in seeing the director distract and decentralize queer subjectivities through the victimization of her heterosexual partner. This incident enabled me to reflect upon my positionality as a filmmaker.”
She decided to pursue a doctoral degree to further inform the ways in which her position negotiates gender politics, representation, and feminist film criticism and theory.
“I came across Dr. Helen Leung’s profile and I was immediately (and have been) inspired by her expertise, scholarly practices, and interdisciplinary frameworks in her research. I was more than thrilled when I was admitted to the PhD program.”
Novia’s dissertation is titled “Documentary as Alternative Practice: Situating Contemporary Documentary Female Filmmakers in Sinophone Cinemas.” In her thesis, she examines the local and global impact on female documentary filmmakers in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the PRC since the 1980s.
“I address the issue of minoritization in each region and explore the ways in which women filmmakers adjust their modes of production while continuing in their works to resist dominant ideologies that have shaped mainstream national/regional film culture. I bring attention to the heterogeneity of female documentarians in the three regions and argue that women’s cultural production foregrounds the local community networks that contest and intervene in the masculinist and nationalist cultural production.”
Novia is currently working as a sessional lecturer at the Kwantlen Polytechnic University and the University of British Columbia Okanagan. Aside from teaching, she hopes to develop community engagement skills and be more involved in the local film scene, activism and organizing. “When possible, I like to dream about developing a multi-leveled course titled Feminist Filmmaking to be taught at different levels in various institutions.”
This story was originally published on the Gender Sexuality, and Women's Studies website on October 6, 2021.